Okay, so my time in “the Valley” is over. It was a great experience! I’m happy to come back to Germay, but I’m evenly sad that the time in the US is already over. Anyway, it is time for a wrap-up. To do so, one should always start with how it began. So for me it began several years ago, when I decided to become a software developer. I was always curious why all the big software companies are located in this mysterious area around San Francisco called Silicon Valley. I always asked myself: Why? What is so special there? I did some research, talked to people who’ve been there, but nobody gave me a satisfying answer. So I decided to go there and find out by my self.
The time was right when I was about to graduate. As I’m working full time and studying at the same time, I never had the chance to take a semester abroad. So I finished my final exams at university and talked to my employer if I could take about half a year of (unpaid) vacation to make an internship in one of the mayor companies in the Silicon Valley. They agreed, I’m still very thankful for giving me the chance! The next step was to find a company which would take me as an intern. I sent out a lot of applications and some companies showed interest. At the end I chose Yelp as they were taking care of all the visa stuff and they offered a really compelling position.
Looking back, what really kept sticking in my head from my time at Yelp, was that they solve problems in a very different way then how I was used to (I wrote about that). Another thing I was surprised about, was that they were-from a technological point of view-not as bleeding edge as I expected. In the Silicon Valley, so I thought, every company is pushing for new technologies and making experiments to optimize even the last pieces of their processes. I experienced a quite different situation. The development environment is mainly a big monolthic application with frameworks that, well, could be replaced with something more recent, to say it in the american polite way. The same counts for the processes. Scrum is used, but could be handled more strict. And another good example how lean they are working is the question if we will get user feedback about the new functionality. It was answered with the words “Usability tests are too expensive”.
I know, that sounds like I had a terrible time there, but that is not true either. It just pulled my feet back to the ground, that also Silicon Valley companies, that claim to be one of the biggest websites in the whole world wide web, are just struggling with the same problems as any other company also does. And they’re doing some stuff impressingly well which, obviously, makes them so successfull. But those things are just hard to grasp and form words that describe that. It is more like a state of mind… Let me try to explain: I never would came to the idea to have almost 2000 salespeople. Or to hire people in the mayor cities of the market, to make parties to motivate users to contribute and refer to friends. But damn, this concept rocks! Maybe this is the salt which makes the soup so special. Maybe more companies in Germany should think outside the box like that, then we might be more successfull.
To be continued here.